The disarticulated skeleton shared by plaisanter on Flickr. CC by-SA 2.0
How can records managers support access and provide context in an age where people and systems create and store masses of information that may be related, across many locations? It doesn’t have to be a magic act, but there are some ways to help make it hang together and support the lifecycle management of organisational information.
Records managers have the opportunity to lead and become the experts within their organisations in the use and application of the technologies that can trawl the many places, including the web and social media, to find information, provide context and make it appear together either for the end user or for automated actions – sometimes referred to as ‘actionable analytics’.
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I’ve had this quote scrawled on a piece of Christmas wrapping paper that I’ve been carrying around since, well Christmas. Boxing Day to be precise.
It comes from Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, chapter 19, The Mold Gold Cape. He describes how the removal of the skeleton at the dig site meant that they lost so much more potential information about the way people lived at the time. The story of the cape was only half told.
“For although the precious finds will usually survive, the context which explains them will be lost, and it’s that context of material – often financially worthless – that turns treasure into history.”
You might say that for our records it’s what turns documents from Peter and Jane into Shakespeare…
We’ve already spoken of the importance of context in managing information, but this is IMPORTANT. So let’s explore further. A few days after I was leafing through someone else’s Christmas presents, The National Archives released a set of Margaret Thatcher’s files. One of the elements that caused so much attention was her hand written notes in the margins of the papers. They bring so much more context to the documents, an insight into her thoughts and personality.
We're often faced with issues of missing context
I consider myself to be a sane and rational human being. Friends and colleagues may disagree. However, like most of us, I am a follower of the path of least resistance. I do not seek to make life more difficult for me than it needs to be.
For those of you asking what that has to do with managing records, the answer is ‘everything’. Continue reading »